2021 NZNBL Round 8 preview: Top three clash among mid-table battles to open weekend of action

IT is getting towards the pointy end of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season, and there is plenty on the line in Round 8 of the competition. Some mid-table clashes, a top three battle and some last chances for lower sides in a weekend that is sure to promise plenty of excitement.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Thursday, June 17 @ 7:30pm
Eventfinda Stadium

A mid-table clash between two sides with five wins takes place tonight in a standalone clash in Auckland. The Auckland Huskies (5-6) are hosting the Canterbury Rams (5-5), in what is literally a ladder-defining clash. It will be the Huskies’ only Round 8 outing this weekend, with the Rams suiting up again on Sunday evening to take on the Taranaki Mountainairs. At home the Huskies are an even 3-3 while the Rams have not been that great on the road, recording a 1-3 record to-date. Chris Johnson (21.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 blocks) has been the standout player for the Huskies, but now Tom Vodanovich is back from ANBL duties, putting up 22 points, five rebounds and two assists coming off the bench last match. The Rams American duo of EJ Singler (166 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.1 steals) and Deshon Taylor (22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.8 steals) can do it all.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. NELSON GIANTS
Friday, June 18 @ 7:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

Next up in one of two Friday night clashes is another mid-table showdown between the fourth placed Otago Nuggets (6-5) and sixth placed Nelson Giants (5-6). Much like the previous match, it is certainly a ladder-defining match with the reigning premier Nuggets able to create some separation on the mid-table logjam, whilst the Giants can keep in touch with those top sides by bringing home the points. At home the Nuggets are 2-3, whilst the Giants are 2-4 on the road. Nelson is playing its only game for Round 8, while Otago will host Franklin Bulls on Sunday. Sam Timmins is in ripping form this season, racking up a triple-double last week and now averaging 18.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals. He has teamed up well with Isaiah Moss (18.9 points, 5.5 rebounds) and Geremy McKay (12.5 points, 6.1 rebounds) this season for the Nuggets. Speaking of red hot form, Hunter Hale continues to shoot the lights out with an average of 27.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.7 steals. Donte Ingram (18.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals) has been the other key scorer for Nelson.

HAWKES BAY HAWKS vs. WELLINGTON SAINTS
Friday, June 18 @ 7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

The match of the round is likely to be between two top three sides as the Hawkes Bay Hawks (7-3) host the Wellington Saints (8-1). The third placed Hawks are yet to lose at home, and have strung together three straight wins to be sitting comfortably, while Wellington Saints have won their past two since dropping their first game to Southland Sharks a couple of weeks again. Wellington has only hit the road three times for a 2-1 record, but have proven hard to beat this season. Dion Prewster (21.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals), Kerwin Roach Jr (17.3 points. 6.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.9 steals), Tohi Smith-Milner (11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals) and Taane Samuel (14.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists) have all been outstanding and contributed to the Saints’ phenomenal season. The Hawks have had their huge depth for support as well, with Ethan Rusbatch (20.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals), Devondrick Walker (17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals), Hyrum Harris (13.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals) and Jonathan Janssen (13.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks) set to lock horns with those Saints talents.

SOUTHLAND SHARKS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Saturday, June 19 @ 7:30pm
ILT Stadium

Tipping off the weekend for one of two Saturday night clashes, the Southland Sharks (9-3) host the Franklin Bulls (4-7). After looking in serious trouble the past couple of weeks due to the injury toll starting to mount, the Bulls finally broke through for a win last start, and will be hoping to back that up with consecutive victories. They are 2-3 when on the road in season 2021, whilst the Sharks are yet to lose at home from four games and are on a seven-game hot streak since losing three consecutive games what seems an eternity ago. Dom Kelman-Poto has been outstanding with 17.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while Courtney Belger (13.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals) and Josh Cunningham (11.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists) have also been impressive. For the Bulls, injuries to Josh Selby and Zane Waterman have really hurt them in particular, as the two key scorers have been replaced by Kyrin Galloway (23.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks) in the past two games, and Manel Ayol (19 points, 11 rebounds and three assists) last match, with Denhym Brooke (11.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) one of the few key features all season.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Saturday, June 19 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

Bottom of the table Taranaki Mountainairs have a mammoth task when entering Round 8, having to topple the second placed Wellington Saints on the road. The Airs (1-9) have sunk to six consecutive losses, and are yet to win away (0-4), whilst the Saints have a perfect 6-0 record when at home. The main hope for the Airs will be the fatigue for the Saints having played the night before. Marcel Jones has been the shining light this season, averaging 23.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks, whilst Carlin Davison (8.0 points. 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals) has impacted off the bench, and Haize Walker (9.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists) steadfast in all 10 matches.

MANAWATU JETS vs. HAWKES BAY HAWKS
Sunday, June 20 @ 3:00pm
Fly Palmy Arena

The third placed Hawks come in for their second game of the round, as the last match featuring a team playing its first game in the Manawatu Jets. Hosting the Hawks at Fly Palmy Arena, the ninth placed Jets must win to keep their finals hopes alive, sitting near the bottom with a 3-8 record, and only 2-2 at home. The Hawks are 2-3 on the road, which could give the Jets confidence of causing an upset. The American trio of Daishon Knight (23.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.9 steals), DeAndre Daniels (16.7 points. 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks) and Shane Temara (15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists) have all been superb despite the Jets’ disappointing season thus far.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Sunday, June 20 @ 5:00pm
Edgar Centre

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Sunday, June 20 @ 5:00pm
Cowles Stadium

 

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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